Get access

Beyond an Enemy Perception: Unpacking and Engaging the Private Sector

Authors

  • Peter Knorringa,

    1. is Associate Professor of Local and Regional Development at the Institute of Social Studies (PO Box 29776, 2502 LT The Hague, The Netherlands). His research focuses on the role of private sector actors in development processes.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • A.H.J. (Bert) Helmsing

    1. is Professor of Local and Regional Development at the Institute of Social Studies (PO Box 29776, 2502 LT The Hague, The Netherlands). He co-ordinates a new research cluster on ‘Interactions between Civil Society and Markets’.
    Search for more papers by this author

ABSTRACT

This article gives three reasons why development scholars concerned with civil society should move beyond an enemy perception of the private sector. First, private entrepreneurs are important social actors in development, possessing a variety of motivations and behaviours which defy monolithic perceptions. Second, entrepreneurs — active and retired — are moving away from passive charity and become active participants in civil society and in international development co-operation. Third, private sector discourses about development need to be unpacked and critically confronted. Here we examine the case for Corporate Social Responsibility: we conclude that established enemy perceptions block learning about and from the private sector. The private sector should be both welcomed and critically engaged, and that requires established civil society thinkers to re-examine the accuracy of their perceptions about the behaviour of private sector actors.

Ancillary